Value – Usability of a Power

While we may not be able to develop a comprehensive picture of value, we ought to make as much progress in what can be known with certainty. This at least to correct errors and lead things aright.

As I have said before, the intrinsic value of something is in virtue of the powers it possess to achieve some end. This end may be something intrinsic to the thing or extrinsic. Coal has an intrinsic power to produce a great deal of heat for long periods if it burned. A suit extrinsically achieves the end of a certain social status under certain extrinsic conditions.

However, the power itself and its usefulness is insufficient for a full perspective of economic value. The power of sensation is incredibly useful. Through it we gain knowledge and information about the world and in a sense it is more powerful and useful than many powers in inert things. There is a good deal of work to develop some sort of artificial sensitive powers in robots and this could prove very useful. However, we cannot make use of the actual power of sense in animals, at least directly.

Animals are at times used as guides for blind people. However, this is not to use the power of sense, but to use the dog as a guide. This involves a sort of judgment on the side of the dog, but we make use of the movements that the dog makes in virtue of his sensation and interior perception. However, we do not make use of the power of sense itself. We use dogs for “detecting” certain drugs or bombs or other things. We don’t make use of these sensitive powers directly, but only with respect to the way in which they exteriorly react based on these sensations. A poorly trained dog may smell the drugs, but not act on it.

The difference is that we cannot make use of these interior powers of animals (let alone the intellects of men), but we can make use of the exterior action and reactions based on these sensations. These reactions when trained properly have a certain value, but it is not the value of the powers as such. It is the value of what we can make use of in relation to those powers.

Thus, it seems that value includes not only a reference to a things powers and ability to achieve some desirable end, but also its usability. Powers that we can’t make use of are economically worthless, though they may give rise to other powers that we can make use of which do have economic value.

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